Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Works For Me: Establishing a Routine

I haven't done a "Works For Me Wednesday" in awhile, but now that we've been home from Ethiopia with our new son for a little over a month I've decided to post some WFMW's about what has been working for us so far during his transition.

If you are visiting my blog for the first time, welcome! In the way of background, I will share that he is 10 years old. For more background you can click on the "Our Adoption" link in my sidebar.

One of the things I took away from much of my reading on adopting older children was that it is valuable to establish a routine. It really helps the child feel secure to know what's coming, what to expect. In recent years during the school year I developed a schedule for our days, which really helped all of us stay on track and make the most of our days. We are not quite to the schedule stage (it takes me weeks to get over traveling and get back to normal) but keeping a routine is the next best thing! Adopted children have, understandably, been through many changes in their lives. Depending on the circumstances which led to them being in an orphanage/ foster home, some of those events have been devastating and have happened in rapid succession. Once they get used to one situation, everything changes again. Keeping things "the same" can be important, especially at first. Even when things can't be the same, knowing what to expect can help them feel "in control."

Since Minte has come to be with us, he has watched the same show every morning when he wakes up. (DVR'd episodes of "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody"... Disney Channel is helpful because there are no commercials for "stuff." And he LOVES that show.) Then, he eats the same thing for breakfast every morning. Eggs (either boiled or scrambled) and dabo (bread), either toasted or plain. Some mornings he asks for a waffle. During breakfast, he checks the weekly calendar that I have posted and we talk about what we are doing that day. Here is a picture of it a couple of weeks ago (you can click on it to make it bigger.) I color-code my kids for school, so when I circle an event in colors it indicates who it's for. This particular week, my husband had a business dinner, so I indicated that Daddy would be "out for dinner." It seemed to really effect him that Daddy wasn't coming home to eat with us, so it was good that he knew that ahead of time. When I can, I draw a little picture beside it so he can more easily understand what it means.
I have had this weekly dry-erase board calendar by our back door for a couple of years, and I write our week on it for the kids to see. It has helped all of us to know what's coming each day. So, I continued this when Minte came home. The only thing I added was writing the word "today" on one of the magnets so he would know which day it is. I cannot tell you how helpful this has been for him. I had no idea this would be something he would love so much! He not only refers to it in the morning, he looks at it throughout each day... to remind himself of what's coming, to ask about something, to learn the days of the week, to talk about something fun we did yesterday that he doesn't remember the word for, etc. Yesterday he pointed to our current calendar which shows that we are going to a wedding on Saturday (I had drawn a bride and groom) and we discussed what a wedding is, who the family is, etc. Very helpful! Now he knows that it is coming and has seen it represented visually, so now he can ask questions and feel secure about it days before it occurs.

Another benefit has been that the things on the calendar that he has seen posted, which we have discussed, and for which we have prepared him, have actually happened. It said "karate class" and we went to karate class. It said "High School Musical 3" and we went to the movie. Not only are these positive experiences for him, he has seen that when I say we're going to do something, we do it, which builds trust.

I've learned that as an adoptive family, much of what we do looks routine and is nothing earth shattering (after all, many families write out their weekly calendars... so what's the big deal?) but for a child who's world has literally changed in recent years, and for a family who has been newly formed, these "little things" aren't so little.

To read more WFMW's and get some fabulous ideas from other bloggers, or to share something that works for you, visit Shannon at Rocks In My Dryer.

Have a wonderful Wednesday!


Miche said...

What a fabulous system you have there! My husband and I are interested in adopting someday (we just had a baby, so we will wait a little longer, and we need to save up the money) I'm so happy I visited your blog today-thanks for the tip!

Rebeckah said...

I love it : ). I love him too. He looks so sweet! Hope you have a wonderful day and a lovely week! God bless!

Deidre said...

I love it! I have a smaller dry-erase board by our backdoor that I list what we're doing all week, but I love how yours is divided into days. You know I'm going to ask where you got it, right?

I love that Minte is adjusting so well. What an answer to prayer!

Cyndi said...

Deidre, I'm sorry! I meant to mention that I got it at Target. Which is where I get *everything*. :)

Frances said...

Hi Cindy: Since I saw you at church and commented on your blog, I had to write and let you know I read it. Thanks. I love to read about what you and your family are doing. Love to you, Frances

Anonymous said...

OH I love this weekly planner! I need to get me one of those! My heart has been leading me to research adoption lately. I love to read about others adoption stories, and it encourages me to see what adoption has brought to their lives! Thanks for sharing!